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Susan Seubert

Africa has been in trouble since 1441 when the Portuguese sailors, Antão Gonçalves and Nuno Tristão, “threw down rusted anchor” in Cabo Branco on the coast of modern Mauritania, went on land, collared 12 Africans like wild game, decked them down the rotten holes of a pirate ship and chain-ganged them into Portugal as chattel slaves. 

The captured men could have been specimen of some hibernating genus to be quickened into brutal medieval “new-world” life in a culturing of slaps, kicks, branding with hot iron like cattle, lashes from horsewhips; slave auctions and unpaid back-breaking donkey’s labour in inclement weather for 400 years. In other words, those initial kidnapped 12 were articles of “the wicked trade.” That was terrorism at its most bestial.

As a matter of course, that Neanderthal continental ransacking and plunder, euphemistically explained off as a “slave trade”, was not considered evil as long as it suited nascent capitalist interests in the old Western Church and State. Even a sitting pope winked and gave a sly carefree nod! He has a name too – Nicholas V. His two wild and raging Bulls- the Dum Divas of 18 June 1452 and the Romanus pontifex of 8 January 1454 – further gored an already impaled medieval Africa with steely, illegal horns called papal decrees. They gave legitimacy to an on-going criminal act, the chattel-enslavement of “non-Christians” – in the medieval church’s understanding, non-humans. 

The deep-etched scars of Africa’s initial encounter with a “wild-wild” West run long and thin into the present because those 400 years of the physical and symbolic flagellation of black bodies continues apace by other disguised and “democratic” means today. Such trickeries could be in the form of Western economic aid packages that belie Africa-hostile fiduciary policies such as International Monetary Fund loans that are booby-traps of eternal continental indebtedness; or the oxymoron of imperialist Western military interventions alongside (an apparently benevolent, but alienating) cultural programming, with their artistic prize awards – this is, to the discerning, bread and bullets.

All of that is ironically enabled by a greedy contemporary and comprador African political leadership that forgets its peoples’ history as people. It is only such forgetting that can explain the on-going surreptitious symbolic re-colonising of African land by China in collusion with an African Union giddy with kickbacks and bribery. Of course, those who forget their history will repeat it.

Counting from 1441 to 2018, that local wilful politico-historical amnesia becomes 577 years of idiotic African leadership; it will amount to six whole centuries of monumental Stupidity in 2041. 

Stupidity has been in display across time in, and about, Africa from all manner of different actors – institutions, groups or individuals, both local and global, insiders and outsiders, well-wishers and antagonists; as well as from friend or foe alike. One Stupid friend comes readily to mind – the missionary, Albert Schweitzer, who insisted that “the African is indeed my brother, but my junior brother” – that is, subordinate and unequal. Ironically, the strangest Stupid was first remarkably displayed amongst that politically naive and egoistic slave-trading African men who called themselves chiefs (community leaders) but who sold their own into unknown Transatlantic horrors. Their rapacious greed is continued today by a larger percentage of (un)modern African politicians, who simply continue centuries of continental plunder begun by the outsider. 

The fact of a benign and gullible African involvement in the so-called trade has always been paraded by cynics who justify or deny the black holocaust. They argue that slavery was already local to Africa before a combined nascent-capitalist European and a preceding eighth century Arabian invasion threw the continent into millennial crisis and dehumanisation. That crisis still resonates in other ways today – for example, in the guise of Africa’s artificial economic, political and social inequalities vis-à-vis the globe, which are engineered from, without, with the help of those African village-idiot politicians from within. These Stupid critics conveniently forget the fact that slavery was a form of labour common to all societies in the world from classical Rome to 12th century Europe as well as to medieval Africa. In their sophistry they ignore the truth that original African slavery was of the relatively harmless domestic type to be differentiated from chattel slavery – the external (largely) European and (to a degree) Arabian variations, which tore the continent apart.

The point of emphasising a rhetoric of the Stupid is that this is the loadstone that attracts that perennial dissimulation, which sustains the eternal ravaging of the continent from without and increasingly from within amongst its deadweight and corrupt sit-tight politicians and military dictators since independence in the late 1950s and early 1960s – this is apart from the lone example of South Africa, which threw off the colonial yoke only in 1994. All these internal and external players believe, like Adolf Hitler and one of his henchmen, Joseph Goebbels, that if you lie big and long enough, it will catch on and stick as truth. They trade in those illusions sold daily to African peoples.

These tired folk, harassed forever from outside and inside are still being inveigled and burdened with so many bogus wares – from foreign religion and language  (beyond their practicalities) to unworkable foreign political and economic systems, all with the aim of sustaining the Stupidity that has been deployed to keep the continent’s peoples chained down and held back by the greed of the larger world and a few internal collaborators. Such deceptions sometimes take on the semblance of truth, good-intention or a general positive air. But it is usually the same old-school buffoonery presented as fine speech- like the occasional Western “Africa-rising” analyses and comments by Western “experts” on Africa as represented by metropolitan newspapers, financial and otherwise, and allied think-tanks. It is this latter pseudo-benevolent and, according to Chinua Achebe, “bleeding-heart” model of the Stupid, which has now tragically consumed an embattled “friend of Africa.”

He often dabbles in the absurd with a Beckettian flourish as witnessed by his many previous Idiot’s commentaries. With an especially insane write-up in 2017 adjudicating for a re-colonisation of Africa, Bruce Gilley dived into an already brackish and bottomless swimming-pool of Stupid in which he has since been drowning. This supercilious political scientist professes Stupidity at Portland State University. As noted, it is not the first time he makes incendiary statements in the name of freedom of speech. His self-comportment is much like that of a drunken alcoholic who, suddenly remembering in his torpor that he possesses freedom of speech (in this case white privilege) and misbehaviour, staggers up and goes on a verbal rampage and begins to embarrass his immediate family and the entire world by insulting any passers-by with frothy, epileptic speech let loose, while undressing and giddily dancing naked in public to a music in his own head. 

Gilles’ vituperations have been given enough sound bites and cyberspace bytes as well as enough ink impressions; they bear no repeating beyond the briefest summary. Gilley’s Idiot’s recommendation to the right-wing is that the West should recolonise the continent of Africa –even at the invitation of Africans – because colonialism happened, and it was a good good thing! The different levels and shades of Stupid inherent in this cringe-worthy and sick recommendation is so earth-shattering that for a so-called political scientist to even think of it is mind-boggling – unless of course he is a closet white supremacist and card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan or a collaborator of that new-age and chic Alt-Right variety of Stupid. 

Its myopia and historical insensitivity apart, any talk of resurrecting colonialism to “save Africa” or formerly colonised indigenous peoples as well as any as yet uncolonised patch of the earth – inconceivable as that is – indirectly suggests that such peoples would be justified in amassing weapons of mass annihilation in anticipation. They would need it for self-preservation and self-defence from an as yet unknown enemy. Gilley is unwittingly suggesting that, were Africa some tech-savvy Wakanda in the middle ages and had, say, advanced nuclear weapons, it would not have been enslaved or later colonised. He insinuates that the continent should prepare itself, even today, to acquire advanced weaponry for the purposes of self-defence from possible re-colonisation, official or otherwise. After all self-preservation has been the very secret rationale for recent or past proliferation amongst imperial as well as belligerent or even peaceful countries.

Self-preservation is the reason North Korea began to amass missiles; it is also the reason it has now only apparently stopped stockpiling; in order words, that country’s goal of retaliatory military capability has been achieved. It is time for it to sit at the negotiation table, with a cruise missile smouldering in Kim Jung-un’s back pocket.  Gilley’s poisonous write-up suggests that North Korean nuclear stockpile and tests were, and will be, justified and should be emulated by the African continent and any other international group, which might remotely suspect the possibility of a return to bondage and servitude via re-colonisation. He insinuates that those ISIL terrorists were right to rampage and kill and maim in response to an often-expressed fear of domination and colonisation by the United States of America. 

Under the breath of his inane article, he seems to whisper: “can anyone imagine a South Africa that will now willingly succumb itself to that old demonic apartheid? Gilles’ un-smart “viewpoint essay” – as his publisher, the equally guilty and ironically titled Third World Quarterly, Stupidly calls it – sets the imagination on fire. What would happen should Canada, for example, decide to save the first nation from itself and reopen residential schools all over the country with the excuse that some overlooked historical lessons still need to be taught by the said school.  Gilles’ bad good intentions – reminiscent of an old disgraced kind of “progress” and spurred on by an equally jaded Manifest Destiny – is a recipe for a mutually assured global destruction. That is, indeed, a strong and dark dose of Stupid.


*Doctor Amatoritsero Ede is a Nigerian-Canadian poet and publisher.